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Teen Rehab for Marijuana Addiction

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After alcohol, marijuana is the most frequently used drug among adolescents. As a result, teens develop a dependence on the drug that requires teen rehab for marijuana.

But many teens and families don’t realize that marijuana is addictive. As an increasing number of states legalize recreational marijuana use, fewer teens and young adults see marijuana use as a problem. In fact, among high school seniors, only about 20 percent perceive any risk from regularly smoking marijuana, according to 2018 statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

However, recent data shows that as many as 30 percent of those who use marijuana may have what’s known as marijuana use disorder or cannabis use disorder. Furthermore, NIDA research finds that when kids start using marijuana before the age of 18, they are four to seven times more likely than adults to develop marijuana use disorder.

In addition, teens with mental health issues are at higher risk for marijuana abuse, as they use the drug to self-medicate painful emotions. Highlighting that link, a review study published in September 2020 found that cannabis use in adolescents is associated with an increased likelihood of suicidal behavior, including both suicidal thoughts and actual suicide attempts. The researchers analyzed 12 studies and concluded that “cannabis is an independent predictor of suicide, with the frequency of use being associated with increased suicide attempts.”

What Is Cannabis Use Disorder?

Marijuana use disorder is characterized by dependence on the drug. That may include any of the following symptoms:

  • Daily use of the drug
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when deprived of the drug
  • Inability to stop using even when it disrupts daily functioning and has a negative impact on school, work, and/or relationships.

There is also a biological component to marijuana dependence. With daily use, the brain adapts by reducing production of its natural endocannabinoid neurotransmitters.

The most recent statistics show that some 4 million people in the United States meet the criteria for cannabis use disorder. However, less than 150,000 people per year seek treatment for the disorder.

How Teens Use Marijuana

Marijuana is often smoked in a cigarette form or using a water pipe. In addition, teens may vape marijuana. In fact, 2018 statistics on marijuana vaping show that 12 percent of 10th graders and 13 percent of 12th graders vaped the drug during the prior 12 months.

Marijuana is known by a variety of other names, such as

  • Pot
  • Hash
  • Grass
  • Mary Jane
  • Herb

Marijuana is often smoked in a cigarette or water pipe, but the small stems and leaves can also be made into tea or included in baked goods such as cookies or brownies. Some people place marijuana inside cigars after pulling out the tobacco leaves. The active ingredient in marijuana, THC, will enter the user’s system through any of these methods.

Symptoms of Marijuana Use and Abuse

The use of marijuana produces signs that are physical, mental and behavioral. Abuse of marijuana indicates an excess use of the substance, which would exaggerate these symptoms.

  • Increased appetite and eating at irregular times
  • Red eyes
  • Social withdrawal in exchange for more time using the drug
  • Reduction in cognitive ability
  • Decreased reaction time
  • Paranoia
  • Drowsiness

In addition, a new study finds that marijuana use can lower IQ in adolescents over time, primarily in verbal IQ.

Spotting Those at Risk

In 2004, researchers at the University of Maryland Center for Substance Abuse Research developed a series of warning signs parents and family members can use to spot the indicators that predict a higher likelihood of problem marijuana use in teens. According to researchers, teens who engage in the following behaviors are at higher risk:

  • Smoking before age 15
  • Drinking alcohol before age 15
  • Missing school 20 or more times
  • Being arrested for drug or alcohol use
  • Believing that parents find drug or alcohol use acceptable
  • Believing that drugs and alcohol are safe to use

A study from the journal Addictive Behaviors added another item to this list. In this study, researchers determined that teens struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were likely to medicate themselves with marijuana. This fact persisted, no matter what other variables the researchers looked for.

Marijuana Rehabilitation for Teens

Teens struggling with marijuana addiction often can’t beat the addiction alone. When they stop using the drug, they may feel intense cravings. In addition, teens often spend time with friends who also abuse marijuana, which makes it much harder to abstain.

Inpatient or residential treatment programs can give teens the help they need to beat addiction. In an inpatient treatment program, the teen moves into the facility for a specified period of time. Family members stay connected and participate in the recovery journey, while the teen lives in a supervised environment where they can address root causes and find positive role models. Inpatient treatment programs also provide medical supervision during the withdrawal process.

Teen rehab for marijuana addiction functions as a sort of reset button to build healthy habits and craft a new plan for living.

Marijuana Addiction Treatment

A comprehensive residential marijuana rehab program includes the following components.

Family therapy: At Newport Academy, our clinicians use Attachment-Based Family Therapy to address rifts between parents and children that may lead to teen substance abuse.

Individual therapy: Conducted by expert clinicians and psychiatrists who perform an efficient clinical assessment. This is used to determine each specific need and thus create an individualized treatment plan that encompasses a variety of counseling and therapeutic modalities.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT focuses on examining the relationships between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, so that teens can change their habitual patterns of thinking and acting.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): This clinical modality is designed to transform negative thinking patterns and destructive behaviors while fostering positive coping mechanisms.

Group counseling sessions: Teens can learn from other recovering adolescents and find out more about how addiction tends to impact young people.

Experiential therapeutic modalities: Art and music therapy, as well as Adventure Therapy and Equine Therapy, give teens ways to process their experiences and develop authentic connections.

Mindfulness practices: Yoga and meditation are powerful tools for relaxation and emotion regulation, giving teens natural options for returning to a calm, centered state of mind.

Outpatient Marijuana Teen Rehab Programs

When inpatient treatment programs are over, teens return home, and once again must deal with outside influences as they work to maintain recovery. To avoid relapse, outpatient substance abuse programs and/or ongoing therapy sessions are essential. Families also need to be supportive during this time of transition.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, relapse rates among chronic drug users are similar to relapse rates for chronic diseases such as asthma, hypertension, and diabetes. When a person with diabetes has a relapse of the disease, people often blame the disease. When an addicted person has a relapse of addiction, people often blame the person. It’s important to remember that addiction is a chronic disease, and your teen will always have to work hard to maintain recovery

12-Step Programs

For some teens, 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous can provide extraordinary support. Here, teens listen to other recovering addicts talk about their addictions, and they learn how to cope with temptation. Teens are often paired with someone successfully in recovery, named their “sponsor”. Their “sponsor” is available at all times to help the teen deal with stresses and addiction struggles. As the teen begins to improve, he or she may be asked to mentor an addict who is new to the program. This is often some teen’s first experience with leadership, and teens strengthen in their own recovery as a result.

Recovery Is a Lifestyle

No matter the method chosen, the teen must stick with the program that works best for them to stay sober. In order to keep from falling back into drug and alcohol use, a reliable support system, healthy lifestyle, and home environment are crucial.

Family members can help teens stay motivated by offering to drive them to meetings, offering to listen to them talk about addiction or offering to attend meetings as a supportive presence. Teens need to feel accepted and cared for by friends and most of all, by family, on their recovery journeys.


Psychol Medicine. 2021 Jan:1–7.
Addictive Disorders Treatment. 2020 Sept;19(3): 146–151.